Travelling Impact

When I studied abroad summer 2009 with COE it was magical for me. Cliche to say I suppose for it was and I hadn’t read much travel writing yet so I didn’t know I was being cliche. Anyway, COE, like any education-based organization faces budget challenges and I can only assume that that is why they are asking students who studied abroad with them to fill out a survey. It might not be theĀ only reason but, well, anymore you have to fight for legitimacy and data helps.

COE is for low-income, first-generation college students by the way; if they did not exist, studying abroad would not have been a part of getting my undergraduate degree, like I say here (I’m answering the comments part of the survey and may, or may not have gotten a little carried away…):

What was the impact? Okay, I realize that due to this being a survey, the point is to ‘measure’ things. But you can’t. Not really. You can track behavior and influence of others (ripple effect) like your questions are doing above but you can’t measure impact. Everyone had a different experience due to being different individuals. Some people have ‘stewed’ in the memories longer than others. But if you must measure, think of this for impact: not one of us who studied abroad will ever, ever forget it. No one forgets an experience like that even if and when they take it for granted and get to do it often. Also, when you are low-income it is very unlikely indeed that you will take it for granted. I would not have traveled abroad as an undergrad without the COE in Liverpool opportunity. I couldn’t afford it and I didn’t begin to know how to figure out study and travel abroad (there’s a measurement for you – lifelasting travel awareness)and finally, as a low-income student, undergraduate was survival a good majority of the time; studying abroad was something I wanted but was out of my reach. But then it wasn’t. Even if I got to travel with my current partner later, it would not be the same because I would be a dependent of sorts — I wouldn’t have learned and been empowered about traveling on my own, getting lost and finding my way, going alone or coordinating with a group of new people.

I could go on and on, and I do. Frequently. But the point is that studying abroad has intrinsic, immeasurable value. It can, but does not always, teach a person cultural relevancy and understanding in a level of depth that cannot be attained any other way — a sort of ultimate hands-on learning experience. Dr. Pamela Gay, an astronomer and professor among other things, says that, “traveling opens up understanding the sky,” or in other words the universe. Given her field of study, she means this more literally than I do. Nonetheless, the impact of my COE studying abroad experience, was empowerment, cultural depth of understanding, learning from mistakes, working in a group of people from very different cultures and backgrounds than me, and at least a little bit, broadened my understanding of the universe.